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Friday 5 March 2021

Reviews: Nightfall, Dreamshade, Melvins, Fellowcraft (Reviews By Matt Bladen, Simon Black, Paul Hutchings & Alex Swift)

Nightfall - At Night We Pray (Season Of Mist) [Matt Bladen]

Greek Blackened Death metal stalwarts Nightfall  have returned from the darkness after seven years with their violent, dark brooding new record At Night We Pray. Before I get into it, I have to praise Fotis Bernardo whos drumming is like a fucking chaingun unleashing hell fire from the first moment of At Night We Pray until the dying embers. At some point it looked like Nightfall may never return again as they shifted from a live band to a studio act and bandleader Efthimis Karadimas (bass/vocals) went off to form The Slayerking which lasted for two albums but was also very much a studio project. 

However after 2019, Karadimas revived Nightfall with a new line up featuring the aforementioned Fotis Bernardo on drums(and production), original guitarist Mike Galiatsos and new guitarist Kostas Kyriakopoulos (The Slayerking) to create this their tenth album. Dealing with depression At Night We Pray goes straight for the jugular the biting guitar tones of Galiatsos and Kyriakopoulos harking back to the days when along with Rotting Christ and Septicflesh they were part of Hellenic Metals Unholy Trinity, a track such a Witches, which has that devastating drumming, Gothic backing vocals from Eleni and Souzana Vougioukli (who add a lot to the record especially on the title track) and the flesh ripping guitars. 

This continues on Giants Of Anger which slows a little into a grinding bloodletter though if you really want a doomy riffers Meteor Gods  Temenos takes that crown before it explodes into more death metal riffage. Karadimas' vocals snarl and roar with the same aggression as the music, both blending perfectly for some top class extreme metal. It's so good to have Nightfall back, after 30 years and a hiatus it seems as though they will be hitting into their 3rd decade with not only a renewed vitality but also a promised return to the live stage too! 8/10  

Dreamshade – A Pale Blue Dot (Self Released) [Simon Black]

Named after writer Carl Sagan’s famous description of the earth as seen from space, the fourth album from these Swiss Modern Metallers has been five years in the making. It’s very much about the factors defining the modern world, with the malign influence of technology and more recently, living in a post-Covid pandemic defined world and its impact on the species riding high thematically. You may have already come across single Stone Cold Digital, which probably epitomises this with its view of the modern world through the eyes of someone from another time, with lyrics like “Sleep with the enemy”’ hammering the point home that the technology dividing us also shares our bedrooms.

As with their previous releases, the potpourri of metal styles in here remains eclectic but strangely effective with the Melodic Death Metal, Metalcore and Progressive elements all seamlessly coexisting together in a very rich lake of production from Jacob Hansen (of Volbeat and Amaranthe fame) who has worked with the band previously, so has a good feel for their essence. The melodic elements make for a very hook laden and commercially accessible sound, with rich synth layerings that create an incredible sense of depth and richness to the album. Some tracks are positively radio friendly – such as the topical Question Everything, with its singalong chorus and bouncy melody lines providing a counterpoint to the subject matter. The technical and progressive elements are worth waiting for as well, with some highly sophisticated time signatures and interplay between the instruments that in place is tighter than a gnat’s bum hole. Step Back is a great example of this – these technical flourishes can’t help but grab your attention, but unlike more overtly Progressive acts they do not in any way detract from the song’s delivery by being intrusive or showy.

The whole album is very accessible and the balance between extreme and clean vocal styles works perfectly. What really makes it work is the astoundingly rich mix and sound though. No-one instrument or voice is allowed to predominate, creating an incredible rich and cohesive, rounded feeling to this record. The same things is happening with the blending of styles, which move seamlessly backwards and forwards, sometimes several times in a given track without jarring in the slightest. That’s a testament to some pretty nifty songwriting skills from a group of clearly very skilful musicians. I wasn’t expecting this effect at all, and I’m left with the feeling that this album is in for a fair few spins from me. 9/10

Melvins -Working With God (Ipecac Recordings) [Paul Hutchings]

They’ve been there since 1983, released a shit ton of records and toured relentlessly. They have a hardcore fanbase and are revered by their peers and the industry alike. And surprisingly, I’ve never got close to listening to more that the odd track. So, for those of you who class the Melvins as a favourite, I apologise, because I’m coming at this colder than a polar bear’s butt in a refrigerator. Melvins sees Buzz Osborne, that’s King Buzzo to you, virtually original member Dale Crover and original drummer Mike Dillard reunite for this, the 24th album, Working With God. This isn’t an album rescued from the archives but an album of new material, the first by this 1983 line-up since 2013’s Tres Cabrones.

With no reference point, I took this album from a low baseline but was presently surprised at the quality of music that was liberally sprinkled throughout. Skip past the juvenile I Fuck Around which takes the band back to 8th grade and a slightly rawer version of The Beach Boys song I Get Around. As King Buzzo said, “We hope that Brian Wilson doesn’t get mad”. You could also skip the first part of Brian, The Horse-Faced Goon if you want, but I guess that being a little odd and zany is one of the appealing features of the band who now reside in Los Angeles whilst Dillard remains in Washington.
At times sludgy, at times grungy but at all times heavy as hell, Working With God works on every level. There’s the punk fused Boy Mike, which races along with genuine aggression, the bizarre Brian, The Horse-Faced Goon, the semi-psychedelic grind of Hot Fish and the alt-rock smoulder of Fuck You. It’s all good fun and enjoyable stuff. Whether I’d have chosen to ever listen to this album is debatable. I’m glad that I did. 7/10

Fellowcraft – This Is Where You’ll Find Me (Self Released) [Alex Swift]

Rooted deep in the traditions of post grunge and classic rock, Fellowcraft’s evident instrumental ability and knack for strong choruses distinguishes them to an extent. That said, the murky production and indistinct songwriting conventions make for quite a tedious and cliché listening experience overall. Pieces like Coyote and The Desert Rose beguile in pieces with energising backing vocals, melancholic lead work and an impressionistic post chorus section, yet feel cliché, especially with the addition of spoken word sections (a particular pet peeve of mine in music) and influences that feel distinctly tired and pastiche. Whatsmore, for all of the positives I can point to in the instrumentation, there are other places where the compositions feel distinctly lacking. 

This is How The World Ends and Sun Hangs Low for instance, try and be bittersweet ballads yet fail to create the presence or memorability to provoke a genuinely emotional response from the listener. For as much as you can sense that genuine passion exists on the part of the musicians, there’s a tepid quality on some tracks, which fails to convince. That’s a shame because from a truly melodic standpoint, there does seem to be a level of proficiency and experimentation here that I daresay transcends that of other bands in this genre. 

Last Great Scotsman and Make No Sound, if approached from the right mind-set, have a level of attitude and flair to them which makes them worth returning to for the rich harmonies and cathartic outpouring, even if they do bear some of the same issues of the EP as a whole – notably the fuzzy and difficult to discern mixing. Overall, while Fellowcraft are far from the most derivative act I’ve heard in American Radio Rock, they have some of the same issues. Despite that, they are clearly talented and respectable song crafters, giving them promise for the future. 5/10

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